What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
Korean Air Scandals and Words of Wisdom
Korean Air CEO Cho Yang-ho and his family are in hot water again these days, after a series of new ‘scandals’. It began with his youngest daughter Cho Hyun-min, also known as Emily Cho, when she allegedly hurled a cup of water at an advertising company official during a meeting in March. On April 12, she apologized on Facebook:
I bow my head and apologize for my foolish and careless behavior.
This was a conduct that should not have happened under any circumstance, and I have no excuse.
I have apologized to the advertising company officials who attended the meeting individually, but it was already spilled water.
My attachment to advertisements should not have been greater than consideration and respect for other people, but I wasn’t able to manage my emotions. It was a gross mistake.
I bow my head once again and apologize.
— Emily (Hyun-min) Cho. April 12, 2018.
Then on April 14, a Korean Air employee contacted OhmyNews and provided a recording of Cho Hyun-min yelling obscenities at the the employees along with a letter and employee card to prove his or her identity. Then came the tantrum scandal of Cho Yang-ho’s wife, Lee Myung-Hee. Video clips of Lee shoving and hitting construction workers spread across the internet, while there are allegations that the Cho family smuggled goods from foreign countries into Korea. This prompted the police and Korea Customs Service to conduct investigations in late April.
Public opinion about the family has plummeted, along with their stocks. Cho Yang-ho released an apology statement and announced bonuses for Korean Air employees, but that only fueled public anger. Korean Air employees have held three candlelight rallies as of May 18, protesting against the treatment they received from the Cho family and demanding that the Cho family be removed from their executive positions.
And one of the latest issues concerns Jin Air, Korean Air’s low-cost carrier. For ten years, Jin Air has insisted on blue jeans as part of their uniform, and allegedly the decision regarding Jin Air’s uniforms have been made by Cho Hyun-min. Currently over 500 Jin Air employees have joined an anonymous employee chat room to report examples of gapjil (abuse of power) that they’ve experienced at work. One of the complaints was about the skinny jeans they had to wear as uniforms. Because they are particularly tight fitting, flight attendants suffer from bladder infection, vaginitis, and blood circulation issues, resulting in one of the flight attendants even passing out midair.
Regarding this last issue, Kim Hyeon-jeong, a radio producer known the new Kim Hyeon-jeong’s News Show, invited two lawyers, Noh Yeong-Hee and Baek Seong-mun, to discuss the legal issues on Wednesday, May 16. Noh argued that skinny jeans as uniform was a form of gapjil and extortion, while Baek felt that it was the company’s policy and identity. Listeners largely agreed with Noh, but regardless of whether you are for or against the uniform, one point that Baek raised was something that we can all take to heart in these emotional times:
But there is one thing that I would really like to say. It’s okay to be angry and to be critical, but we also need to have an objective perspective. That’s what I’d like to say.
— Baek Seong-mun. May 16, 2018.
Remembering the Gwangju Democratic Uprising
The month of May is a busy one in Korea with numerous something something days, including with the Children’s Day on May 5, Parents’ Day on May 8, and Teachers’ Day on May 15. Among them, May 18 isn’t a holiday but a day that many people commemorate.
Thirty-eight years ago, on May 18, 1980, students in Gwangju held a protest against the then President Chun Doo-hwan’s military edict closing the universities and stifling any political dissent. The whole Korean Peninsula was under a state of emergency The Korean military dispatched a special forces unit, which used tear gas, batons, and rubber bullets to quell the protest. When the students continued to protest, and shopkeepers, parents, and other citizens joined to help them, the military opened fire. In the following days, chaos ensued, with protests and government suppression. Meanwhile, Koreans outside of Gwangju had no clue about what was going on in Gwangju, as the media had been controlled by the government. However, foreigners residing in Gwangju helped spread the word about the uprising and the government’s brutal suppression.
The news of the events in Gwangju spread overseas and spurred Koreans residing outside of Korea to call for democracy in Korea. Koreans in Germany, many of whom were there as miners and nurses, learned about the killings through reports by Jürgen Hinzpeter, a German journalist known in Korea as the “witness with blue eyes”, and marched in support.
This year, a few of them visited Korea to attend the commemoration event. Among them were Lee Jong-hyeon, a Korean German who was invited to attend the event in 2016 and was denied entry into Korea based on Article 11, Paragraph 3 of the Immigration Act (as “A person deemed highly likely to engage in any conduct harming the interests or public security of the Republic of Korea”), as well as Yun Un-seop, a former miner and secretary of the Korean European Network. Regarding their work in Germany in 1980, Yun said:
“When such horrendous situation occurred in the motherland where our parents, brothers, and sisters are living in and where my bones thickened, I believe that not doing anything and just watching is not something that humans should do.”
[We hoped] that the May [uprising in] Gwangju and our efforts for our country’s democratization would provide a small support to our fellow Koreans…
— Yun Un-seop. May 15, 2018.
Women’s Empowerment in Seoul National University
In May 2018, Joh Sung Wook, a graduate of Seoul National University (SNU), became the first woman to become a professor at SNU Business School. Regarding the accusation that the university has focused on hiring men in the past years, Joh disagreed and explained that there were only six women among hundreds of economics students when she attended the university in the 1980s. She was the first Korean woman to receive a Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard University.
SNU’s Economic Department announced this year that it would hire a woman for the position, in accordance with the Framework Act on Gender Equality and the Educational Officials Act, and also as a measure to adapt to the changing environment and diversifying student population. Regarding this restriction, Joh remarked:
If universities, companies, and society adopts a transparent and clear assessment system when hiring employees, people will be judged based solely on their skills; the controversy regarding gender discrimination will disappear; and no one will be able to manipulate it…As a woman, I was a bit disappointed by the announcement from the Economics Department at SNU about hiring only a woman as professor.
Joh was optimistic about the increasing number of women in universities. She said,
In just a few years, women professors will outnumber men.
— Jo Seong-wook. May 20, 2018.
There’s still a long way to go to bridge the gender gap, but we’re making progress in different fields.